Hip fracture
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How to Identify and Treat Hip Fractures

What is it?

A hip fracture is when the upper part of the thigh bone (femur) is broken. The femur forms the ‘ball’ of the ball and socket hip joint. There are three types of fracture, depending on exactly which part of the femur is affected:

  • Intracapsular fracture– at the neck of the femur, within the ‘socket’ of the joint
  • Intertrochanteric fracture– slightly lower, but outside the socket of the joint
  • Subtrochanteric fracture– lower again, but at the top of the shaft of the femur

How is it caused?

A hip fracture can be caused by falling, or by impact on the side of the hip. In patients with very weak bone (such as those with osteoporosis), the hip can break when the leg is twisted.

What are the symptoms?

These include severe pain on the outside of the upper thigh or groin following an accident, which becomes much worse with any movement. The leg may appear shorter with the foot and knee turned outwards.

How is it diagnosed?

A discussion about how you were injured and a medical examination is usually followed by X-rays. Occasionally CT or MRI scans are needed to make the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Non-operative treatment: it is unusual to be able to avoid surgery because this restores stability to the leg, allowing you to get out of bed and walk around immediately afterwards, aiding recovery and reducing the complications associated with bed rest. Surgical treatment of hip fractures is one of the major surgical advances of the 20th century.

Surgery: depending on where the break is, this may include fixing the fracture with screws and/or a large screw and plate to stabilise the bone. Intracapsular fractures heal poorly and are often best treated with total hip replacement.

Important

This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Every person is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.